VOL. 124 | NO. 97 | Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Herenton: Rape Center To Get Help From Le Bonheur
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced Monday a reorganization of the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center that will include Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center handling all forensic examinations of child rape and sexual assault victims.
Herenton’s announcement of a plan comes after weeks of criticism of the center for not having enough staff, and in at least two cases, telling victims to return days later for an examination.
“I firmly believe that the citizens of Memphis deserve to have a sexual assault resource center and that those services should never be compromised,” Herenton said at a City Hall press conference. “I acknowledge we’ve had a few challenges in recent weeks.”
Methodist Le Bonheur officials said they will work with the Child Advocacy Center and eventually move an outpatient clinic there devoted exclusively to child sexual assault victims. Le Bonheur will also supply nurse practitioners to work in the outpatient clinic as well as the interim facility at Le Bonheur effective June 1.
Nancy Williams, director of the Child Advocacy Center, said she welcomed a “new level of involvement” from Le Bonheur, which is owned by Methodist Healthcare Corp.
Herenton said about half of the rape victims the Rape Crisis Center sees are children. The city-operated center will continue to see and perform forensic exams on adult rape victims from Memphis and the surrounding three-state area.
Herenton recently appointed Dr. Betty Winters, formerly of the Memphis Police Department, as the new director. With her appointment, Herenton said there will be an external audit of the center’s finances.
Some City Council members had called for such an audit after money provided by state and other agencies didn’t match what the center showed it received from them. The center’s financial statements showed about $500,000 less than the state and other agencies said they provided.
Herenton deflected questions about how his administration ran the center in recent months.
“The news today is that the city of Memphis has forthrightly taken aggressive action to address a critical need,” Herenton said. “We care and we are doing something about the problem.”
He also declined to say whether there might be some change in division directors as a result. The rape crisis center is under the city division of Public Services & Neighborhoods, headed by Kenneth Moody.
“As a mayor, obviously, I’m responsible for the management of all of these divisions,” Herenton said. “If I deem it necessary that there’s new leadership required, then I’ll do it, and if I don’t, then I won’t.”